Dark Illustrations: Sketches in Blood
Chapter Thirty-Eight: Siege
I felt numb. That was all I could manage to feel, even as the fight broke out. Nothing. I heard clearly as Adrian shouted for Cal to leave Julian alone, but I couldn't get my mouth open. Maybe it was shock, maybe I just didn't know what to say. For whatever reason, my teeth were set behind my lips, and I didn't say anything. Gan and Io, too, told Cal that he was going too far as he stood there and degraded poor Julian. Called him those awful things. But they couldn't intercede, and they didn't. Maybe they were in shock too.
It was Damian who finally intervened, and boy did he do it. He did just what not one of us had the gall to do and he told him just where to get off, and just what he thought of him, and when Cal fell flat on the floor, I couldn't help but be proud of Dame, in spite of the terrible situation. As we stood looking down at him there on the floor, choking and wheezing like he'd lost a lung, I shook my head at him. Really, it was sad how he had to be that way. I knew Cal—he was really a good guy at heart, but his only way to show his pain was to be cruel. He didn't mean to, but at the same time, he didn't know when to stop. It was honestly about time somebody laid him out. He might've been one of my best friends, but I knew just as well as the next relatively smart person when enough was enough.
Too bad Cal never learned that one.
Julian ran from the room, and the numbness lurking over me intensified, even as Vincente called after him. Adrian moved to go try and catch him, but I caught his wrist. "Leave him alone," I said quietly. When he turned to stare at me, I shook my head. I stared after him for a long time before I spoke again. "Let him go…he's gonna need some time by himself."
Adrian didn't like it, but he didn't argue. His resistance to my grip faded, and he nodded, leaning back against the wall again. I let him go. "You're right, I suppose…"
"The hell he is!" Damian spat, whirling on me. "We gotta do somethin'!"
My hands tightened at my sides. He said it like I didn't care about Julian at all. I did! But what could we do? "Nothing," I said finally, answering myself. "There's nothing we can do."
The British boy scowled at me, his eyes burning. For once, he didn't tell me what he thought of me, and I wish he would've, so I didn't have to see it so plain in his narrow gaze. "Right then, you can stay here for all I care! I'm goin' after 'im!"
"Damian—" Adrian started.
"Shut up!" he practically shrieked. "Some family if you'll jus' let 'im run off like that when he's hurt! And YOU!" He turned and buried his foot in Cal's ribs just as he managed to get to his knees, earning a choking gasp and a wide-eyed look before he hit the floor again. "This is your fault, you selfish sonofabitch!"
"Stop it!" Gan all but threw himself across Cal's back as he hauled back to kick him again, and Damian's boot stopped short. "Stop …" he said softly. He stared up at the kid with his mild gray eyes wide, as if begging for his mercy. Still, as always with the sensible Galen quad, there was a look in his gaze of understanding. He knew he was upset, and couldn't be angry. "The damage has been done. Don't hurt him anymore." Even as he said this, Io advanced on the furious boy, hands outstretched as if to restrain or strangle him. Where Gan couldn't find the heart to be angry, he was, and it showed.
Damian ducked away from him before he could be touched, then stared around at us long and hard. We were all turned to look at him; it made him feel visibly cornered, and it made him angrier. Growling in frustration, he spun and shoved past Vincente out the door. "You can all die!" he cried back to us and, with a flash of green eyes hatefully aimed at me, he disappeared into the hall after his brother.
No one spoke as Gan helped Cal up onto his knees, bracing his side with his hand where the ex-stripper had drop-kicked him. The moment he got that far, he tried to brush his brother aside. "Get off'a me," he hissed through his teeth, "I can do it myself."
Instead of moving gently aside, the way I expected him to, Gan gripped him tighter around his barrel, making him groan in pain. His eyes turned to ice. "For once in your life, shut up," he said coldly, "Or I'll hurt you myself." His once infinite patience had apparently run dry for the time being.
He didn't argue. "That stupid bitch," he panted, eyebrows knit in a deadly line above his nose, "I'll kill him…" He meant Damian, of course. But he was in no shape to be killing anybody at the moment, and honestly, he looked more embarrassed than hurt. The boy had likely bruised his ribs and pelvic bone, but the damage to his ego was deeper.
Io knelt and helped Gan get him off the floor, hauling him to his feet. "You deserved that," he said flatly.
"Shit, not you too."
"You did. You terrified that kid—" He looked frustrated, almost beyond words. "…You had no right."
"Oh fuck you!" Cal spat, tearing away from the two of them. There was a look on his face, just a look that said he had so many awful things he wanted to say to his brothers, but he couldn't do it. They were all he had left now, and he knew that. "Don't touch me," he managed finally, but suddenly his voice had dropped from the bellowing shout it had been, becoming a hoarse whisper.
As much as Gan looked like he wanted to hold him, and Io looked like he wanted to hit him, they stayed away. Drawing away from them, Cal went to the chair next to Europa's bed, dropping into it and leaning his arms against his knees. He ignored the rest of us then, staring at the floor and cradling his ribs.
He wasn't good at being helpless.
Adrian brought his hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose, looking as exhausted as I felt. We were all feeling it, I was sure. Then, faintly, "No more…" It was almost a request…a plea.
I looked up at him, but I didn't know what to say. He was tired, but it wasn't the type of tired that came from not sleeping. It was the type of tired that came from being worn down inside…exhaustion of the soul. I was pretty sure all of us felt that way. Watching our allies fall like cards, one after the other, was wearing us down. First we lost Charon and Cejay, and then Nobunaga was killed. Now Europa lay dying in a hospital bed, brain-dead. The bonds holding us together were fraying.
Everything was falling apart.
I wondered bitterly if Sethan was watching us right now, and if he was having a good laugh at how pitiful we mere mortals were. Reaching out, I took Adrian's hand, squeezing it, to remind him that I was still there. No matter what, I was going to be there for him.
That's what I told myself.
He lifted his head to look at me. His face was blank as slate, but his eyes told me everything he couldn't express, all the pain and fear reflected in the endless scarlet pools. However, he returned the gesture, holding my hand tight, and he didn't let go. I folded my other hand over his, and put my head against his shoulder.
Cal leaned down to rest his head against the guard rail, and Io took Gan to sit down next to the window, cracking it open to let some air into the stale little room. Vincente remained a voiceless shadow lurking in the doorway, discouraging the passing nurses and aides from disturbing us.
I closed my eyes and sighed, the sound loud in the soundless room. It was unreal, standing there in the heavy, mourning silence. I tried not to think about Europa, or Julian crying in some hallway, or Damian tear-assing through the hospital looking for him. I tried not to think about Gan, pale and faintly quivering against Io as he stared out the window. I tried not to think about Cal with his bruised ribs and hurt pride, staring, hollow-eyed, at the floor next to that bed. Wishing like the rest of us that this was just a nightmare we'd wake up from. I tried not to think about Lucian, kneeling somewhere, waiting to strike like a viper now that we were wounded and weak, or Sethan, who'd sent him, who'd caused all of this pain.
And I couldn't. All of it flooded my mind, and I squinted my eyes shut tighter to try and block it out. I hardly noticed when Adrian's arm came up to wrap around me, holding me to his side. Or the faint, shaking gasp as Gan dissolved into tears.
For a few long minutes, the only sounds in the room were our soft breathing, Gan's breathless sobs, the whir of the respirator, and the constant, steady beep of the heart monitor. Make it stop, I thought.
And then, it jumped.
My eyes slid open. It was just once, and then the rhythm fell again to the same slow, steady pattern it had maintained for the past few hours. Maybe I imagined it. But I swore there was an extra beep.
It wasn't just me. The extra keening tone stabbed through the silence, cracked it open. Everybody reacted. Gan choked on a sob, Cal's head shot up, and Adrian's grip on me faltered, and all of us turned for the heart monitor. We all looked, and the solitary jump repeated, again. And again. And again. What had been a sluggish, even rhythm became erratic, green peaks stabbed up through the black of the screen viciously, at random. It wasn't like a heartbeat at all. There wasn't even a pattern!
"W-what…" Gan choked out, "What's happening?"
Cal stood up, shoving his chair away from the bed in the process. It overturned with a bang.
The monitor continued to beep loudly, quickly, the display marked with peaks and spikes of all sizes. Europa's body gave a jerk.
Gan stammered, "Oh God—h-he's having a seizure…!"
"Hit the call button!" Io shouted, jumping up. "Cal, damn it, hit the button!"
Cal didn't. He froze up on the spot and didn't move, his eyes impossibly wide.
Tearing away from Adrian, I cut between Cal and the bed and went for the emergency button, but my hand froze inches from it as my eyes hit the display. His brain activity, once flat, was going nuts. The respirator began to shriek in some warning. I looked at Europa, and froze as well. His chest was jerking violently, his teeth set on the hilt of the tube they'd put down his throat, biting down on it.
Vincente was there in a flash, and he knocked Cal and I both away. "It isn't a seizure," I heard him say as he grabbed the respirator tube by the mask. "Stand clear!" Gan shouted some panicked objection, but over the racket of the machines, I couldn't make it out. The demon knight set a hand against the youngest Quad's shuddering chest and heaved, and the tube came free. The respirator wailed and then went silent.
And then, with a heavy gasp, Europa sat up.
Those of us whom had been approaching the bed leapt back, and I stumbled into Cal, just about ending up on my ass on the floor. Immediately, Europa doubled over and began to cough, hard, folding both arms over his chest and panting for breath.
"H-holy shit!" Cal gagged, his hands coming up to grasp my shoulders as he pushed me back upright, away from him. "Europa?!"
"Tha-tha—that's im…" I knew it was gonna happen before it happened. Gan swooned, and collapsed.
"Shit, Gan!" Io snatched him around the chest, preventing him from hitting the floor. He was out cold. Cradling him awkwardly as he knelt, the oldest Galen stared disbelieving at the bed. "This is impossible!" he finished for his fainted brother.
Nothing's impossible, I wanted to say. Not after all the crap we'd seen.
Cal shoved past me to get to the bed, ripping the guard-rail down and wrapping his arms protectively around Europa as he struggled to catch his breath. "Oh my God, you're awake," I heard him whisper. He was holding him like he'd never let go. "You're awake, you're okay…oh my God, you're okay…"
Europa finally stopped coughing, his arms flying to grasp tight to Cal's as he hugged him and babbled against his shoulder. What came out of his mouth then, however, was not what I expected his first response to be. "Julian!" he exclaimed, his voice cracking terribly. He coughed again, then looked desperately around, wide brown eyes searching every inch of the room. "Where's Julian?!"
We all stared at him. "What?" Cal asked.
"Julian!" Europa repeated. He turned in his brother's arms to stare at him. "Cal, where is he?" When Cal looked away, he whirled around to stare at me. "Mischa! Where is Julian? Where IS he?!"
"Calm down, calm down!" I said quickly, bringing my hands up in front of me. "It's okay, he just left for a minute!" I looked around. "Somebody go get him, and get a doctor too!"
Io had managed to snap out of our group shock long enough to put Gan in a chair. "I got the doctor," he said, dusting his jeans off, and took off to do just that.
"He left?" Europa repeated. He looked terrified. "Wh-why did he leave?"
Involuntarily, my eyes turned to the man kneeling behind him, still holding onto him for dear life. The word 'guilty' scribbled itself all over his face, and he lowered his eyes.
Europa followed my gaze, looking questioningly at the other Quad. "…Cal?"
A long-fingered hand grasped my shoulder, startling me, and stealing my attention from the scene. "I'll go and get him," Adrian said softly to me, squeezing my shoulder. "And Damian with him." I nodded and squeezed his hand, and with a flourish of his trench coat, he disappeared to get his brothers.
It was then that the youngest Galen came to his senses. Still holding the arm crossed over his chest with both hands, he took a good look around the room. His eyes widened. "Where am…" Then, he spotted the heart monitor, which was now beeping steadily, a reflection of his pulse. It spiked the second he looked at it, and his eyes shifted down to his own body, draped awkwardly in a medical gown. "This is a hospital!" he exclaimed, terror exploding across his face. "What'm I doing here?!"
"Hey, it's okay," Cal said quickly, his voice surprisingly gentle. Whether it was from shame or protectiveness, I couldn't tell. "Just relax, you're all right."
"No, why am I here?" he insisted, pulling away from his brother's arms. He reached up and tugged the sensors off his chest, gathering them in one hand and throwing them off the bed, then began looking at the IV hooked into his wrist, like he wanted to tear it out too. Instead, his eyes shot to me. "Tell me what happened, why am I here?"
Oh sure, pin ME with the serious question! "W-we woke up and you were catatonic—" I sputtered, feeling put on the spot. "We thought you were dead. We brought you here and they told us you wouldn't wake up again, but—"
Europa paled. "No…"
Cal carefully took his shoulders. "What's wrong?"
He ignored him. "Where is Julian?" Europa asked again. "I gotta see him, I gotta know he's okay!"
I blinked. Normally, I could've just brushed it off as his being too attached to the kid. Anybody else would've written it off as that—childish attachment. But something told me not to. "Why wouldn't he be okay?" I asked.
He didn't answer me, and his eyes began to glaze over, startling Cal and I both. "Oh no, it was real…"
"It was real," he said distantly, as if that explained everything. Then, his eyes filled visibly with tears, and his head dropped, his hands flying to his face. "Oh no…"
"Europa, what's the matter?" Cal asked again, steadily getting more and more frustrated. "Answer me! What's so important about that—"
His hands fell into his lap. "We're all going to die."
The certainty in his voice made my heart dropped into my stomach. There were things people thought, and things people knew, and the way he said it…it was as if he knew. Suddenly, I wanted to shout down the hall for Adrian and Io to come back. I didn't want them outside of that room, where I couldn't see them. I wanted to shut the door and lock it, to barricade the windows. The sudden paranoia was almost too much for me to take.
I looked at the door and saw that Vincente had disappeared, and it was then that I realized…
…Not one of the Horsemen was still in this room.
Jules had run out, and Damian had thrown a fit and stormed away. Adrian went after him.
And now Vincente was gone.
There was a sudden nervous pressure in my head, behind my eyes, and I knew I was going to fall down if I didn't sit first. But I didn't. I went right to the bed, pushing Cal back on his ass and taking Europa's face in my hands. I don't know what I meant to ask him, what I meant to say, but somehow, something made me ask, "What happened?"
"Julian saved me," he said instantly, his voice very soft, "And now he's gone." His face was completely blank, his eyes glassy and focusing on the bedsheets draped over his steepled knees. He didn't look at me, even as I stared intently at him.
Cal looked at us both like we were nuts. "What—"
"Shut the hell up," I snapped at him, "Just shut up. Europa, what do you mean he's gone?"
"He tricked me, he took me away…"
My blood ran cold in my veins, but I didn't blink. 'He' implied all it needed to.
"He took me away 'cause he knew he would come, and he came. He saved me."
I stared at him, suddenly dizzy as my heart pounded viciously in my chest. I tried to translate the mass repetition of pronouns. (That's the problem in dealing with too many males—'he' applied to everyone.) Sethan tricked Europa…and took him away because he knew Julian would go after him.
"But you've been right here," Cal started, looking completely dumbstruck.
"No, I was in Hell," Europa said quietly, turning at last to regard his brother. Suddenly, he looked so frightened, and he reached out to touch his shoulder, his expression one of childlike terror. "Cal…HE was there!"
I didn't even have a chance to question the other pronoun use, because Cal turned white as a sheet, and then I knew. And Cal didn't say a damn word, because suddenly, he looked scared too.
The youngest Quad began to mouth quietly to himself, little snippets of words I didn't understand, but I started to feel cold when I swore he whispered 'something bad'. Then, "Julian said…" he murmured, then paused, and his eyes widened again. He turned to look around the room, then at me. "Mischa, make them come back! It'll happen again, Julian said it, make them come back!"
It'll happen again? At this point, I didn't care if I didn't understand. I wasn't about to assume he was raving, not now; I went to the doorway and leaned out, looking down one corridor, then the next. It was eerily empty. Where in the name of God had all the staff gone? "Io!" I yelled, my voice echoing and reflecting deafeningly down the hall. "Adrian! Damian!"
The only one that responded was Io, and he came jogging back from another hall, having heard me. "What's up, Mischa?" he called to me.
"Just get in here, all right?" I grabbed him by the arm and dragged him inside, then looked out the door again. I couldn't see the other two anywhere. Where were they? And what had happened to Vincente?
"I couldn't find a doctor," Io said as I stared tensely out the door.
Cal scoffed. "The hell do you mean you couldn't find one? This is a hospital!"
"Well no shit, stupid!" Io snapped back. "Everybody in the hallway just…disappeared. They were all there, but now they're not."
"That doesn't make any fucking sense."
"Nope," I muttered to myself, "and that's not a good sign." Because every time something started getting weird, something bad happened, and the longer I stared around the hall, the more I started to get the feeling that something very bad was on its way. Europa said Julian was gone—in Hell—and now not only were the other three gone, but the hospital staff had just vanished. Over and over, I kept thinking, Adrian, come back, come back, Adrian, come back, but there was no one in the hall, and outside the door, it was deathly silent. Yep. This was definitely not good. "Europa, do you know what's going on?" I asked on a whim.
"Nuh-uh," the youngest quad said quietly.
"Why the hell would he?"
"Damn it, Cal, no one is talking to you!" I snarled at him, gripping the doorjamb in frustration. "Just shut UP!"
"No!" he shouted back at me, turning on the bed. He looked pissed, and honestly, I couldn't blame him in retrospect. He and Io were out of the loop—only Gan and Europa knew what was going on, and Gan was unconscious. Nobody had bothered to tell them, and Callisto Galen had a big thing against being in the dark. He made that point very clear. "First Europa runs off saying he needs to help you, gone to God knows where, then you show back up a week later, and he's in a fucking coma that he miraculously wakes up from? Now you maniacs are talking about Hell, and who the fuck is Sethan? What the hell is going on, Mischa?"
"That's just it," I said. "Hell. The whole fucking world is going to Hell, and there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it. Nobody but the 'freak', and the 'bitch', and the little boy you screamed out of this room like the overbearing bastard that you are." I wanted for the world to be angry with him, but I just couldn't. Already they had been through so much, the quads. The only friends I had. My tone stayed flat as I spoke to him, even as he sat and glared at me. As if all of it was my fault. "And from what Europa said, one of them is already gone." At the confused look I got for all of this, I just turned away. There was too much to explain, and not enough time. I was already frustrated, angry, worried and scared, and now suddenly everyone was gone. It was eating at me. Julian left that room and ended up in Hell, and now he was gone. Now Adrian, and Damian, and Vincente were missing.
I couldn't just stand there and wait for them like some puppy, it just wasn't in me. Sure, I might've just been a human, but this was one human who didn't like sitting and anticipating a fall.
I made up my mind. "I don't have time to explain it to you, Cal, I'm gonna go find Adrian."
Europa nearly jumped off the bed as I snatched up the weapons bag I'd saved from the train and went for the door. "No, don't leave!" he cried, terror in his voice. "Mischa, stay here! Please don't go!"
Despite my better judgment, I chose not to listen. I was never really good at it anyway. I looked at Io, knowing he would at least be smart enough to heed a warning. "All four of you stay in this room and don't leave," I said, setting a hand on his shoulder briefly. "Not for a second, don't even look outside. I'll be right back." He opened his mouth to argue, but I was already on my way out the door, headed the way Adrian and Damian had gone.
"Mischa, please!" Europa shouted after me. "Mischa!"
"Stay there!" I called back, and then I was running. I didn't think for a moment that what I was doing could be half as stupid as it probably was.
Gripping the strap of the weapons bag, I ran, with no idea where I was going, and nothing in my mind but the panic of what would happen if I didn't find the others. Again and again, my mind repeated, Julian is gone. He's gone. Now the other three were nowhere in sight, and I shuddered to think what would happen if Sethan got his hands on all of them. We'd done fine so far, and just that quick, he pulled the ground out from under us. It was a reality check like no other; Sethan was still the one with all the power here, and now that our side was down one Horsemen, the unity in their group was gone.
As I ran, hitting corners, trying to sense or see the others, I wished for the world I'd let someone go after Jules and stop him. And yet, Europa was alive because of him, I knew. He had saved him, and given himself to do so. I couldn't even begin to imagine what sort of choice that was for him.
I'd know soon enough.
"Damian, Vincente!" I called. "Adrian!" My voice echoed off the floors and walls and ceilings in the empty hospital. That realization was like a heavy weight in the pit of my stomach. Everyone outside of Europa's room—the nurses, the doctors, even the patients—had all disappeared. The sinking feeling this thought gave me was nauseating. Had Sethan taken them all? Would he hold them hostage, in exchange for the Horsemen? He'd done that to Julian with Europa's soul, as far as I could tell. It wasn't beneath him. But if that was the case, then where were the other three? If he had them, why would he take everyone?
I was thinking in circles—I couldn't concentrate. My heart was hammering so hard in my chest that all I could hear was my pulse in my ears, and the echo of my voice as I yelled for the remaining three. I hardly realized that I was yelling for Adrian the hardest. It's a cruel thought, but I was the most worried about him. I wanted to know that he was all right. At first, I was thinking about all three of the Horsemen, but as the moments ticked by, I grew more and more worried about my Horseman. He was the most powerful, Vincente had said. He was Aidan, the lord of the Hellfire and all of that other garbage that Sethan and his cronies were always ranting about. If he got his hands on him…
I was beginning to panic. No one in the halls, or the rooms; the hospital was abandoned. I couldn't get past it. Everyone was gone. I ran, looking frantically from side to side, calling, then shouting at the top of my lungs for them to come back. They couldn't have gone so far, they had to be here! They had to be, there was nowhere to go! Sethan couldn't have them, I told myself. He couldn't!
I was dizzy, and I stopped running to catch my breath, leaning down to brace my hands on my knees. It felt like the ground was shifting under my feet, trying to dump me onto the floor. We were fine, and then all of a sudden, this had happened. Sethan had been planning this, I was sure. To wait until we dropped our guard to finally strike, and strike hard. And now—
It was then that I realized I wasn't as dizzy as I thought…as I stood upright, only to find that the ground was moving. Like the waves of the ocean, it bobbed lightly under my feet, the linoleum tiles rippling clear down the long empty hallway. Okay, this wasn't good. I looked around, struggling to keep my footing, but then the ground heaved, and I flew into the wall nearby. The crown of my head cracked against it hard enough to make me see white as I slid to the floor.
Outside, I could hear the storm. The rain continued to slam against the windows like a million tiny hammers, crashing against the glass with a furious roar that resounded through the empty hall. It was when I looked dizzily up at the high corridor windows that I realized the walls had turned black. I stared, dumbfounded. Black? The longer I looked, the more I began to recognize that they hadn't actually become black, but that they were radiating it. It was a dark aura…one of the darkest I'd ever seen.
My eyes widened, then, as I realized I'd been wondering how much trouble I was in, and my Sight answered with this. I was in a hell of a lot of trouble.
The rippling lake of the sanitary white floor suddenly began to pitch and toss, as if the storm outside had hit its surface. Cracks spidered across the tiles as I scrambled to my feet, and when the floor heaved, they snapped, the cement beneath bare to the air, pressing into itself, shoving upward like rock spires in an earthquake. It was then that the walls began to shake, and all around the hospital, metal instrument trays, telephones, beds, chairs, and lamps all began to clatter around, and crash to the floor. It was like the whole place was going to snap in half and sink into the ground!
I shoved myself away from the wall and ran as fast as I could down the hall as the floor heaved and the foundation cracked and shot up through the tile. It was almost impossible to keep my balance, but I focused my Sight on the safest path through the chaos, and as the walls and floor flickered with darkness, patches of light appeared in a weaving path, and I stayed as close to those as I could. "You maniac!" I yelled over the sound of the tremors rippling through the building's framework. I knew he was listening. I knew he was here. "If you want me, come and get me! Leave the people here out of it!"
This only made the ground pitch harder, and the floor under my feet split open wide, jagged ridges of cement shooting up like the jaws of some monster, and I barely managed to tumble off it before they crushed together. That would've cost me both legs. I didn't stop to think about it; I struggled to my feet and kept running, my sneakers sliding across the slick linoleum as I hit a corner, attempting to dodge out of the way. But the floor in the next hall had already been demolished, to the point that I'd have to climb the wreckage to get through, and that'd be a great way to die with how everything was shaking.
I didn't get any time to think about it. Suddenly, I got a really bad feeling as the wall beside me began to ripple the way the floor had, and I looked up at it, watching as a pin-point crack appeared just level with my head. That crack remained for just a moment before it began to splinter out in all directions. The floor had stopped pitching just as soon as it had started, but now the whole wall was starting!
"Oh shiiit," I said, stumbling backward away from it. I tripped over a loose chunk of flooring and landed flat on my back, my head bumping hard against a door behind me, knocking it open. It was a hospital room! The aura of the wall turned as black as night, and I kicked and clawed my way backward into that room, jumping up and slamming the door shut, then pushing my back to it with my hands on either side of the frame. And I closed my eyes, and braced myself.
I heard the crash, and it was enough to shake the whole room with the force, the door shuddering and the hinges screaming as the stone wall collapsed, debris slamming the door with almost enough power to knock it open. I felt the surface of the wood crack right beneath my back, and then part of the ceiling caved in, plaster and wood raining down, along with a bed from an upper floor that crushed one of the ones in the room with me. I stood frozen into the doorway, petrified, afraid to move until all sound and movement stopped.
When I opened my eyes again, it was silent, but for the shifting of fallen debris rustling around. I was shaking like a leaf from head to toe, but I pried myself out of the door frame to look at the door, which had almost snapped in half from the force of the wall's crumbling outside. Uncertainly, I touched the handle, waiting for another sound, for more destruction, but nothing happened, so I pried it open, only to dodge a short fall of rubble. About ten square feet of concrete wall had come down, and the doorway was almost filled with the result.
Inwardly, I sighed, and climbed up the pile of rubble and out of the room, back into the destroyed hallway. As I looked around, slowly trying to sort myself out, I found myself praying to God that that whole thing was just Sethan targeting me, and not the whole hospital. If not…then I really hoped the Galens were okay.
I started to head down the far side of the mound of stone, to try and fight my way down the corridor and get back to Europa's room as fast as possible, to make sure they were all right. I started to, that is, until I heard my name from the other direction. I froze then, turning to look back into the hall this had started in. The one I'd left to come here.
"Mischa—!" came the faint echo.
I stared. It was coming from the other end of that hall, and the whole thing was trashed. Turning, I slid down the other side of the mound, the jagged concrete cutting a few good chunks out of my jeans, and stepped carefully into that corridor, checking the wall beside me for signs of a danger-aura before touching it. I looked down the stretch of hall. It was most definitely coming from there, and the whole hall was wrecked. That little taste of Hell had followed me in particular, but it looked like it had spread even after I changed direction.
But Europa's room was down the other hall. That meant that the person calling me…had to be one of the Horsemen.
When my name echoed out again, I knew who it was. "Adrian?!"
I stared at the extent of the damage in the hall, and suddenly, I had a really bad feeling. What if he got caught in that? There was no telling how far it went! Climbing over a spot where the foundation had been shoved up, I made my way down the hall, jogging and avoiding the cracks and protrusions that littered the floor. I honed my sight to scout for safe paths to go, and most of the hall was clear, short of where the most damage was, but the direction I was headed in was flickering with a dark aura. Just like the walls, right before this whole thing started. If Adrian was there, I had to find him and get him out of there before it started up again.
"Adrian!" I called down the hall as I came to a fork in the path, where the damage to the floor ceased. "Where are you? Is anybody with you?"
It was a moment before I heard a response, coming from the right-hand hall. "I'm here," his voice came from a ways down. "I lost track of Damian…" Now that I was closer, I realized it was straining. He was hurt…
All the lights had been knocked out in this hall when the quake started, because it was dark, save for a little bit of window light. I tried to shift my Sight to get a light aura off of something, anything so I could get through the hall, but it didn't work. All I got was a dark aura, and that just made it harder to see. Keeping my hand on the wall, I started down the hall toward his voice. "I'm gonna come get you, so stay put!"
"No, it's dangerous!" he called weakly. "Don't come down here, go back!" But his voice wavered.
"The hell I will!" I shouted, following the sound of his arguing. It was so like him not to think about himself, the idiot. But I was getting closer, I knew. I passed another patient hall, full of rooms. I was starting to take hope that he'd taken shelter in one of them, the way I had, but his voice wasn't coming form there. Damian wasn't with him, which meant he was somewhere else. I thought, I hope he was smart enough to hide. We'd have to find him next, but first I had to get to Adrian. The hall I was following was a clerical hall, I recognized, as my hand left the wall and slid across a desk. "I can't find Vincente either," I said, to try and keep him talking. "Was he with you?"
This time, there was no answer.
My stomach dropped. "Adrian!" I shouted, hurrying to the end of the hall, stumbling around an abandoned gurney. I waited for a minute, then yelled again. "Adrian, tell me where you are! Adrian!"
"I'm here," he called again, but his voice was so weak now I could barely hear it, even if it was close by. He was probably hurt, and it didn't sound good. As I left that hall, I found myself facing a set of swinging doors, with windows in either one. I expected it to be an operating room or something, but when I pushed them open, it led into the hospital cafeteria. The shockwaves of the quake hadn't done much damage to the hall that led here, but the place itself was in shambles. Part of the ceiling had come down, crushing tables, and a support pillar lay buried in the kitchen area's counter. An emergency exit door had taken out another chunk of counter, though how it got there was anyone's guess.
The power was out, but there was something sparking—a clump of wires from the power box, it looked like. Blue and red sparks sprayed from it as I walked in, dodging to the side to avoid getting hit. With the ceiling gone, the storm was pouring torrents of water down across the debris, but thankfully the trashed power-box was covered by some of the remaining ceiling, keeping it from getting wet. "Adrian?" I asked softly, looking around.
And then I swear I swallowed my heart.
Sitting amongst the rubble of the caved-in ceiling was Adrian. It looked like he'd managed to get under one of the tables before it came down. Somehow, I was pretty sure Sethan hadn't trashed the entire hospital, but rather the places with us in them. That made me worry even more for the quads. But for now, Adrian was my big concern. The table had been smashed under the rubble, and his coat was shredded from climbing out from under it. Now, he sat on his knees, doubled over amongst the ruins of the roof, soaked from the rain, one hand gripping relentlessly at his side. His head was down, eyes squinted closed in very obvious pain, and the cracked and broken remains of the ceiling and table beneath him were stained red.
"Adrian!" Running from my place at the door and into the rain and the ruin, I tripped my way over to him, sliding on the water-slicked floor and nearly crashing into the mess. The stone bit into my knees through my pants as I landed a few feet from him, trying to crawl up to reach him.
"Mischa…" he panted softly, his free hand gripping a steel support rod protruding from the concrete around him. He was weaving faintly, and he held tight to the rod to keep from falling down. "You shouldn't be here…"
I stared at him, then tried to get closer, but the weapons bag snagged on another rod. I threw it off. "Are you out of your mind?" I spat hysterically. As I looked at him, I saw the blood pouring from under his hand, and I swore my heart was going to explode from terror. "Oh my God, Adrian," I choked.
Still panting, his head down and his eyes squinted tight, he smiled a little, shaking his head. "I-I'm all right…"
"Jesus…" I said, crawling up next to him to get a better look at the damage. The blood trickled from between his fingers, dripping to mark the broken ground and discoloring the puddles. I didn't dare to move his hand. God knew how bad it was. "God, what happened? And what are you doing in here?" I reached out to touch his hand, wondering if maybe I could do something. I healed him once, I remembered…maybe I could do it again. I'd have to, it looked like. My heart was pounding. With a wound like that, he could die!
And yet, his breathing slowly evened out, and he gave a soft, breathless laugh. "I was just…doing as you asked…"
I stared at him, my hands pausing in touching him. Was he in shock? "Adrian, w-what are you talking about?" I asked.
Before he could answer, I heard my name echo from outside the room, but the moment I tried to think it was Damian, or Cal, or even Vincente, I realized I was wrong. "Mischa!" it called, and it took far too long for it to dawn on me. "Mischa, NO!"
And then Adrian turned to smirk at me, and his hand left his bleeding side to touch my face, smearing my cheek with dark red liquid. "…I came to get you." And he opened his eyes, but they weren't red. They were dark, and shifting.
The cafeteria doors banged open, and there stood Adrian, unharmed. "GET AWAY FROM HIM!" he cried to me, throwing a hand out, and fire shot up from the floor, only to be extinguished by the rain.
It was too late. The blood-covered hand closed around my throat, and the tattered and beaten image of Adrian stood, dragging me to my feet. Then it all made sense—the dark aura in the hall. As I stared at him, I realized he'd been glowing black the whole time. I'd thought it was because he was hurt. But it wasn't. As I choked for air, gripping at the long-fingered hand wrapped around my throat, crushing it, the image of Adrian flickered and faded, reforming, becoming more narrow, paler, and darker. The only thing remaining unchanged were his eyes…the shifting opalescent eyes.
"It truly is remarkable," Sethan drawled as he lifted me off the ground, dark energy crackling and rippling across his very skin like electricity, "How many times a foolish heart will fall to the same exact ploy." Smirking at me as I fought against his grip for air, he turned his head to look at Adrian, who stood tensely in front of the cafeteria doors. The rain that poured down from the hole in the roof shied away from him, leaving him dry, even as it saturated the both of us.
"Let him go, Sethan!" Adrian shouted, lifting his hands, and they blazed with scarlet fire. He took a step closer, but Sethan just held me up like some rag doll. He growled, but stayed where he was. "He has nothing to do with this. It's me you want, isn't it?"
The shifting colors of his eyes remained a warm mix of green and violet as they focused on him, as if he were no threat at all, and he tilted his head ever so slightly. "Oh yes, dear brother," he said softly, and his narrow face split into a grin. "But he does have something to do with this. His part is very large, in fact. He is an integral part of my earning your allegiance."
I saw where this was going. He was going to use me the way he used Europa…to make Adrian turn himself over. "Don't do it!" I choked, but Sethan only tightened his fist, and my vision blacked out. What was with people and choking me, anyway? I clawed at his hand, forgetting completely that this was an immortal, and a demon lord, hoping desperately to get him to let go, but he never relented.
"Worry not, precious human soul," Sethan said suddenly, then snapped his fingers. "Lucian!"
The scarred demon mercenary appeared in a blast of darkness, only to snatch me from his master's hand and lock his forearm across my throat. The second Sethan let go of me, Adrian dashed forward, but Lucian planted his right palm against my temple, and he froze again. "Ah-ah, Lord Aidan," Lucian spat, his breath washing over my damp ear and neck, "He won't do you much good without a brain, now, will he?"
Adrian backed off. "You let him go or I will not surrender to you," he hissed.
The demon lord's dark brows arched faintly in vague interest. "Oh no?" he asked, one hand rising to grasp his sharp chin in mock-thought. "Now, Aidan, I ever took you for a fool, but never plainly stupid." At this, Lucian's pentagram blazed, the red light warm against my face and eye. I slowly tried to bring my elbow up to get his ribs, but he just tightened his arm across my throat, cutting off my air. The world started to float then. Sethan smirked in Adrian's direction as he began to panic. "I wouldn't consider the use of your fire if I were you, my poor ignorant little brother," Sethan said, shaking a finger at him chasteningly. "You've already burned this poor boy to death once." Lucian jerked me harder back against him to make the point. If he tried to burn him, he'd burn me too.
Again, Adrian backed down, but his eyes locked onto mine, and I tried with all my might not to look as pathetic and helpless as I knew I was. Without a word, he apologized a thousand times, but I could only look away. This wasn't his fault…it was mine. I should have listened to Europa when he told me not to go.
Sethan wasn't finished yet. Still with that feigned expression of thought, he tapped a finger to his chin, then smiled as innocently as if he'd never sinned. He spread his hands. "Perhaps you need some time to truly consider the magnitude of your decision here." At once, his boots left the rubble, and he hovered into the air. He gave Lucian a gesture, and black wings sprouted from his back, dragging he and I both from the ground to follow after his master. "So, I will take your precious Gift along with me."
"NO!" Adrian cried, but the second he got close, Lucian turned his hand from my head, only to blast a line across the ceiling, sending a rain of stone pouring down over him. Amazingly, he reached into his shirt and pulled his amulet out, holding it up, and the cave-in was repelled, the chunks of stone and steel flying away from him, but the distraction was enough to put a lot of space between us. By the time Adrian got over the piled rubble, Lucian had me twenty feet off the ground, and if he dropped me from that height, there'd be no more me.
"I am finished playing games with you, Aidan," Sethan said plainly as he peered down at him from the air, the calm and pristine greens and blues of his eyes turning at once to a fiery orange and gold. Despite his bland stare, I could feel his anger in the air, and it filled me with terror. "Perhaps you will realize now who is in control. In the end, you belong to me; you always have, and always will. I created you, and yet you spite me and resist my will, as a naughty child to his parent." He turned then to touch my face, gripping my jaw so hard it hurt with a grin that bordered on insane. "Call this your punishment."
I jerked my head away from him and he laughed, but I was too focused to bother with him. "Adrian!" I shouted to him in a last-ditch attempt, "Don't do it, I'm not worth it!"
He ignored me, looking at Sethan instead. It was plain on his face that he didn't know what to do. "Don't hurt him!" he shouted, but it sounded more like a plea than a demand.
To this, the lord could only laugh, but at once his laughter halted, and he stared down his nose at the Horseman of Fate. "You have four hours to make your decision: one for every year of life allotted to you. At the end of this time, I will send for you, and you will give me your decision." Then, at once, my vision swirled, and I realized Lucian had hit me, so hard the whole world started to melt. I heard Adrian yelling my name, but it was so far away, it was like I was dreaming. It spun, and spiraled, and then it was gone. And there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I came to slowly at first, after what felt like a minute or two. It was in reality probably an hour later. The first thing I realized was that my head hurt like nothing I'd felt, but then again, I'd never been knocked out before, or at least not like that. Whatever he did, it worked. The second thing I noticed was the fact that I couldn't move. Shouldn't have been a surprise, being that I was a hostage and all. After a few long moments of trying to get my head back on straight, I pried my eyes open, squinting a little.
Aaaaaaand I was in a church. The hell? I stared across the sanctuary, which was well-lit by standing candle-holders lining all the walls, red carpet lining the aisles between the pews. It didn't look abandoned, not like the cathedral Sethan had dragged us to the first time. No, this one looked like something you'd see on channel six Sunday mornings, where some televangelist would be barking for your money with an 800 number at the bottom of the screen.
"Ironic, isn't it?"
I turned my head to look down, and was surprised to see Lucian perched on the edge of the altar, which was coincidentally where I was tied up. Literally. I was probably two feet off the ground, my arms strapped to beams on either side of me and my ankles strapped together. Sethan was nowhere in sight, but at least I knew where one of them was. At the very least, I wanted to keep my eye on him. Hey, I might've been the prisoner here, but I didn't trust him anywhere I couldn't see him. "What're you talkin' about?" I asked a little blearily.
Lucian smirked at me, then stood up, brushing his pants off. "Look around you," he said, giving a sweeping gesture with one hand.
"What," I said dryly, glancing around again, "the church? What's with you and him and churches, anyway? Pretty weird fetish for demons."
"Ah, but what better place for my kind than a hall of worship without faith?" he sneered. I didn't say anything, and he gave a small chuckle, turning to look out across the sanctuary. "You humans. You seem to believe, if you come and you sit in a room, and listen to a man read outdated scriptures mistranslated a hundred fold, that you can make a mere building a holy place. That you can win yourselves forgiveness in the eyes of a god who doesn't give a damn about you." He snorted, then turned to face me again, smirking. "There is nothing holy in a droning, faithless repetition of practice, spurned by nothing but guilt."
Well, unfortunately, that explained why they could enter places like this, let alone hang out in them. It bugged the hell out of me that he was right. "That was good," I said sarcastically. "You should write a book." His smirk widened a bit, and I turned my head away, watching him out of the corner of my eye. "So, got stuck babysitting the captive, huh? Bet that makes you proud, gettin' stuck with me."
Lucian spread his hands, surprisingly unaffected. "I admit I'd much rather be doing something else, but you are rather important, so it is my duty to make certain you're a good little human and stay right where you are." He paused. "After all, bait's of no use if it wiggles off the hook."
"You're one to be calling me a worm, slimeball," I hissed, but he just smirked. "You're wasting your time, you know. Adrian's way too smart to fall into a trap this obvious." At least, that's what I wanted to believe. I didn't think for a second Lucian was stupid enough to fall for it, but I couldn't help but say it. Because it should've been true. There was no telling what they'd do to me, but if they got their hands on him…
The golden-eyed demon grinned at me as if I'd just made a joke, and it actually made me wince, the way his face contorted when he did that. Bridging the distance between us, he tapped a finger to my forehead. "Ah, but he loves you," he hissed, "the fool. He would do anything for your safety."
"Don't make me laugh," I spat back, glaring back at him. "If anything, he'll show up here and wipe both of you out, and when he does, I hope he roasts you like a pig."
"Big words from the bait," Lucian laughed, and his hand came up under my chin, palming my head back against whatever it was I was tied to. He drew the tips of his fingernails down my neck, and I didn't dare move, if only because I knew he could kill me. Sethan had said once he only needed my blood, and this freak had broken plenty of his master's rules. He'd bleed me if he thought he could. "I can't kill you yet," he growled lowly, and I was disgusted to feel his breath against my throat. "Not yet…but when I can…"
"He won't surrender," I growled.
"He has no choice—Sasha." I winced at the name, and Lucian cackled, letting go of my chin and stepping back to look at me. A vicious grin split his face then, one that sent a shiver down my spine. "He will come and he will surrender, or he will come and fight…but either way, he will be overcome, and my lord will be triumphant. And then you, and the rest of you little cockroaches will cease to be." Then, his face grew serious. "But not before I have my fill of torturing you, and making you scream for mercy." And then he laughed.
"Lucian…" I said warningly, working my hands under the bindings. I couldn't get out, but I thought if I could just get a fist out, just punch him in his goddamn pointed nose, I'd feel better. It wouldn't change a thing, but I really wanted to hit him. "When I get out of here, I'm gonna feed you every one of those words."
"How droll—you actually believe you could scratch me. You, a mere human."
"Nobunaga scratched you," I spat viciously, and his eyes widened. Whups, I hit a soft spot. If I could get him mad enough, maybe… "He more than scratched you, he messed up your face, and now you've got that hideous scar! A demon with a cross on his face, how pathetic is that?"
Lucian's gaze darkened.
I knew it was stupid to piss him off, but if I could get him mad enough, he might bust me out just to try and kill me, and at least I could fight him from there. It was quite possibly the most ignorant idea I'd ever had, but at this point, I was running out of options. It was that or hang around and let him kill me. "Oooh, hurt your pride, Lucy?" I asked, grinning at him the way he'd grinned at me. As if he were the one tied up and helpless. "Getting your pretty face fucked up by a human. Bet Sethan doesn't think you're very pretty anymore. Not much use as his bitch if he can't stand to look at you—"
His hand came up and the pentagram lit up in his palm, and suddenly, it was aimed right for my face. He looked about as pissed as he could be. But I guess I miscalculated the thought of him taking me down to kill me. He didn't have to. This was Lucian; apparently I'd forgotten he was a coward. He'd only fight when he had an advantage, and having me strapped to a post definitely gave him an edge. "We do not need you alive," he growled at me. "Merely for him to believe you are alive."
Oh shit. The red energy began to spike off the rays of the pentagram in arcs. "You don't have the balls!" I shouted at him. Why the hell did I say that? I don't know, my brain was crashing.
He was going to kill me.
"Lucian!" a voice echoed, resounding through the entire sanctuary, and I knew instantly who it was. Immediately, Lucian closed his hand and hit his knees, gritting his teeth as he lowered his head. I was almost relieved. Almost. Out from behind me, I felt the air shift, and a porcelain-pale hand came to gently grasp my chin. His fingers were ice-cold and it made me shudder. I heard him smirk before he turned his attention to his servant once more. "Your orders were not to harm him," Sethan said frigidly, not walking around, but through the post I was strapped to. I watched as it and my arm passed right through his chest without leaving a mark, and the sensation of a cold fog crawling over my skin accompanied the sight. Quite possibly the weirdest thing I'd seen in a while.
"Forgive me, Master," Lucian murmured, his head remaining down. "I forget myself."
"See that you are less forgetful in the future. Your personal negligence is trying my patience." As Sethan turned to face me, his slave sent me a look that could have burned me, but he kept his big mouth shut, staying on his knees there on the altar. I had a small, dry thought about his being sore at me for making his master angry at him. Ooh, we'd have to fight in the playground after school.
It might look like I was taking this pretty lightly, but it was mostly because I was in shock. Trust me when I say, I knew exactly what was going on. I was about to become a human sacrifice to the end of the world, and all I could think was that I didn't want Adrian to save me. I'd miss my aunt and cousins, and school, and being normal, and being alive, but if it kept Adrian from turning himself over to them…that was all that mattered. I'm no hero, but if it was my life or the world, I'd say the world came first.
Again, those cold, bony fingers touched my face, and I shied away from his touch, well aware of the kind of power lurking just under his skin. "H-he won't come," I stammered, but now I wasn't so confident. The difference was that I wasn't scared of Lucian, even if he could kill me. Sethan could do plenty more than just kill me. And I was afraid of him.
"Oh, he will come," Sethan said with a smirk, tracing his thumb over my cheek. "You are very precious to him, Sasha. Or rather, Mischa. I keep forgetting you've changed names since last we met."
"Bastard," I spat, and it was another one of those moments where it came from somewhere else in my mind. Said with such hatred I knew I was remembering. Recognizing that it was him who killed me, that it was he who let me die and think that Adrian—Aidan—had killed me.
Sethan's smirk grew into a grin, and he shook his head, chuckling lightly. "Precious angel," he said softly, as if speaking to a child, "Innocent creature who died in the flames of your lover's final embrace. You always were a nuisance to me, and never could I seem to be rid of you. I had hoped that watching you burn the first time would break his spirit, but instead his own weakness devoured him, and he became useless to me." His ever-shifting eyes began to darken from a stormy, white-speckled blue to a deep, bruised purple, marked in red and gold. "Who would have believed that you, meddlesome Sasha, would become his undoing, after all this time? You who were his strength to stand against me, to deny me my wishes, my life's work. All for what, but love, the emotion that makes weak and useless all things."
"You're wrong," I hissed. "What do you know about love?"
"I know that it saps the heart of all strength," he said. "I know that it makes useless a creature caught in its snare, when taken from the thing it most desires." And all at once, he drew away from me, turning to regard the room at large as Lucian had done. "The greatest of us all was destroyed by this weak, ridiculous emotion, mind obliterated. Our great Lord, for whom all sin is blamed."
My eyes widened slightly. "What are you talking about?" I dared to ask.
Glancing back over his shoulder at me, I saw Sethan's face had darkened, and he made a gesture to the ceiling. "The Morningstar," he said, his voice soft suddenly, almost respectful. "The bringer of the light of dawn." He drew his hand down then, slowly, as if to imitate a falling leaf. Or something much greater. "His name was Samael," he said, "the great and glorious beloved of God. It cost me so much effort to convince him, so much time…he, the greatest and most powerful…to convince him that his cherished God was wrong. That it was to us to take Him, make Him see reason." Turning, the dark lord swept his hand aside, discarding the whole thought. "And because the greatest of us was weak with love, we were cast from the Heights, to skulk in darkness."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "It was your fault?" I asked. "The War of the Heavens, that was YOU?"
Slowly, the narrow corners of his lips quirked up, and he chuckled. "When he began to believe me, so many others followed. It would have been so simple to snatch the power that God withheld, to change his illogical laws—to prevent the creation of you accursed human worms." His eyes became like molten lava then, and he tilted his head back to look at the ceiling…at a mural of angels playing trumpets and harps, flying through in the sky on great wings. "It was love that destroyed my plans, again, and again, always. Now the greatest of us lies trapped within his own miasma of self-pity and childish sulking. The great Lucifer, who is in your human circles our all-powerful King…sits, and rots as Aidan did rot, hateful, sad…and weak." He spat the words like an awful poison, and for once, his serene, taunting, and patronizing face was torn with bitter rage. "It has fallen to me to make up for his folly," he hissed, and then his eyes fell to me, and I felt at that moment that they'd burn right through me. "No more of my plans will be botched. This world, with all its pain, and sin, and suffering, will sink into the bowls of Hell, to burn, to be obliterated, and every last one of you insects will suffer until your race is no more. That is to be my vengeance for hundreds of thousands of years of fighting, and struggle, and preparation, only to be foiled by some little brat angel and my own fool little brother."
I was shaking uncontrollably under his stare, and my skin felt hot, and suddenly I was flashing back to the day that I almost died, when my room was on fire, my house burning, and I couldn't escape. I kept thinking I'd burst into flames under his stare.
But then, his eyes relaxed, and a smile crossed his face—an eerie, cold smile, void of all emotion. He reached out again and traced my cheek, and I winced away, but he just took my face in his hand, looking at me as if looking at some beautiful hope. And I knew he meant to use me to end the world. And the look in his eyes told me that he would. "But you," he said softly, "you, bright and glorious angel, will die, in a beautiful blaze that with it will take all of mankind's hope. You won't be a hero, and no one will know but your precious lover that it was your blood that brought the end of all. And he will mourn you, before he becomes mine again."
I tried to turn my head away, only to hit it against the structure I was strapped to. And it was then that I got a better look around. When I first came to, I realized I was tied up, to a post with a bar across it to hold my arms away from me. What I didn't realize was that it wasn't a post.
I was strapped to an eight-foot wooden cross.
To Be Continued
Xandra: I won't rant here. If anybody would like to know why this update took so bloody long, then check out my livejournal (xandras-coffee). That is all. 3 Love to everybody who puts up with my life and the way it stops me from writing. XD